MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine
MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine

Breast cancer study to focus on tumour DNA in blood

Research into an advanced form of breast cancer is set to aid understanding of cancer biology. The project is focused on secondary breast cancer – an incurable form of the condition that occurs when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body: April 2019

From left Mrs Louise Milligan, Mr Euan Fleming, Mrs Lisa Fleming, Dr Olga Oikonomidou, Mrs Liz McAinsh and Ms Karen Hilton.
From left Mrs Louise Milligan, Mr Euan Fleming, Mrs Lisa Fleming, Dr Olga Oikonomidou, Mrs Liz McAinsh and Ms Karen Hilton.

Secondary breast cancer

Scientists say the study could shed light on the biology of secondary breast cancer and help identify new treatments for people living with the disease.

More than 11,000 women die from secondary breast cancer – also known as Stage 4, or metastatic – each year in the UK. 

Make 2nds Count

Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre (ECRC) researchers have received £100,000 from Make 2nds Count – a UK charity dedicated to secondary breast cancer research – to advance the study.  

The pioneering research – led by Dr Olga Oikonomidou at the ECRC – will help shed light on secondary breast cancer by focusing on identifying the specific gene changes, or mutations, that drive cancer cell growth. 

DNA sequencing

The team will sequence DNA from tumours, and draw up a genetic map that will help spot mutations involved in this form of cancer.

Their aim is to identify changes in a simple blood sample that could help predict response to treatment.

They also hope to identify mutations that will allow doctors to offer patients new targeted therapies.

Blood samples

Dr Olga Oikonomidou says her team has recruited more than 200 patients receiving treatment for metastatic breast cancer and collected more than 600 blood samples. 

Make 2nds Count was set up by Edinburgh resident Lisa Fleming in 2017 after her diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer. 

Although secondary breast cancer remains incurable, it is treatable and, thanks to ongoing investment in research, patients with metastatic breast cancer can live well for many years. This form of breast cancer is constantly evolving and finding new ways to outsmart treatments, so there is a pressing need to understand it more fully. We are enormously grateful to Make 2nds Count for their generous donation.

Dr Olga OikonomidouEdinburgh Cancer Research Centre

Make 2nds Count are delighted to be in a position to help Dr Oikonomidou further her important research thanks to our generous supporters.  Secondary breast cancer is still hugely underfunded compared with other forms of cancers and we hope that this funding will speed up efforts to find better treatments for families dealing with the disease.

Lisa FlemingMake 2nds Count

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